Save money by pulling the plug

Phantom load. No, it’s not the latest masked super hero. It is, however, the energy drain that occurs when appliances are turned off but not unplugged.

Phantom load.

No, it’s not the latest masked super hero. It is, however, the energy drain that occurs when appliances are turned off but not unplugged.

Strangely enough DVD players, VCRs, stereos, TVs and even microwaves continue to suck back the energy and steal money from your wallet when you assume they are off and not doing anything. The cordless drill you have charging up is still powering along even after the light has gone out to say the charge is complete.

This phantom menace is responsible for up to a whopping eight per cent of houses energy consumption.

There is a really easy solution here: unplug it. That’s right, just unplug your devices and appliances when they are not in use. If you want to make this easier, pick up some smart power strips at any hardware store. What you do is plug your TV and other items into one of these and then you just turn the switch on and off. This saves you from having to reach behind the TV and find the cord to unplug it every time.

Another easy cost cutting tip is CFLs. No this is not a football term; these CFLs are Compact Florescent Bulbs. As the light bulbs in your house burn out use the new compact florescent bulbs to replace them. I know they cost more to buy them than your standard light bulb. But consider this: these bulbs use 75 per cent less electricity.

The less power used means lower power bills and more money for you. They also last up to 10 times longer than the old incandescent bulbs. So over the lifetime of the bulbs, you will get back your initial cost and more.

Now while doing all these little changes how do you know if you are saving money. The first place to look is on your bills.

Are they going down? Another way to tell is to start with a professional home-energy audit. If you make the changes that are recommended in the audit you can, depending on the size and year of your house end up saving 10 to 30 per cent on your utility bills.

You can find an energy auditor using NRCan’s ecoEnergy retrofit program ( or phone 1-800-622-6232. You can also try calling your local or provincial energy authorities.

Now this audit can cost $400 more it depends on such factors as the size and location of your house. It is a worthwhile investment considering what you get back out of it. You will not only be given recommendations on the upgrades for your house. Your audit should include an estimate on how much those upgrades will cost.

Most importantly it will tell you how much you should expect to save on your future energy costs. To qualify for most rebate programs offered by the government one of the conditions is that you have an energy audit done.

Check out provincial and federal government websites for new programs. Often there are grants and rebates out there. These will help offset the costs of new energy star appliances, high-efficiency furnace and other items.

Don’t forget your municipal branch. They have started offering rebates as well.

Sandra Nolan is a freelance writer from Rocky Mountain House. Her column will appear every other week in LIFE. Contact her at

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